Skynotes June 2014

Month Highlights

Early evening is the best time to catch the planets this month – Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and for a brief time Mercury can be seen after sunset. Venus is the only planet in the morning sky, but it’s always worth a look as it shines so lovely and bright.

Planetarium Events

Elemental - Four performances, 10th & 11th July

Next month, Scienceworks has partnered with the Wheeler Centre to present Elemental, a unique science-poetry performance directed by Alicia Sometimes.

Since the dawn of time, poets have gazed up at the stars and pondered who we are and what it all means. Elemental is a beautiful exploration of our universe with a poetic twist that ascribes meaning to our celestial experience.

Bookings can be made through the Wheeler Centre.

Sunrise & Sunset Times

  Rise Set
Sunday 1st 7:26 5:09
Wednesday 11th 7:32 5:07
Saturday 21st 7:36 5:08
Monday 30th 7:37 5:11

Moon Phases

First Quarter Friday 6th
Full Moon Friday 13th
Last Quarter Friday 20th
New Moon Friday 27th

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Tuesday 3rd, at a distance of 404,955 km.

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Sunday 15th, at a distance of 362,061 km.

Let The Moon Be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • After sunset on the 1st, the waxing crescent Moon sits above Jupiter.
  • On the 4th, the Moon can be found to the left of the bright star Regulus (Leo, the lion).
  • The waxing gibbous Moon sits between Mars and Spica (Virgo) on the 8th.
  • The Moon is close to Saturn on the 10th.
  • On the 12th, the almost full Moon can be found below the red supergiant star Antares (Scorpius).
  • Before sunrise on the 24th, the waning crescent Moon forms a triangle with Pleaides and Venus.
  • Then on the 25th, the Moon sits between Venus and the red star Aldebaran (Taurus).

Planets

Mercury is low in the north-west after sunset at the start of the month. Jupiter is nearby, sitting above and to the right. Mercury can be seen for about a week before it catches up with the Sun and the planet will return to the morning sky in July.

Venus can be seen in the north-east before sunrise. By the 24th, it is fairly low to the horizon with the crescent Moon above, the star cluster Pleaides to the left and the triangle of stars that form Taurus to the right.

Earth experiences the Winter Solstice on Saturday 21st. At 8:51pm the Sun has reached its furthest north for the year and begins moving southward. From Melbourne, the Sun travels low across the sky and it is our shortest day, with just 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight.

Mars is high in the north-east at sunset with the bright star Spica (Virgo) just to the right. The Moon sits between them on the night of the 8th. The planet has been looking lovely and red in the evening sky and below Mars is the star Arcturus (Bootes), the fourth brightest star in the night sky.

Jupiter will soon disappear from the evening sky. Catch it this month, at it moves low to the north-west, still following the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. The thin crescent Moon can be found near Jupiter on the 1st and again on the 29th.

Saturn can be found in the east at sunset, with the lovely winter constellation of Scorpius trailing behind. Above and to the left of Saturn are Mars and Spica. On the 10th, the Moon sits just above Saturn.

Meteors

There are a number of meteor showers occurring in Scorpius and Sagittarius this month. Although low in number (less than 10 per hour) the shower members can often be spectacular, appearing slow and bright with many displaying a yellow/orange colour. The best time to see meteors is after midnight.

Stars & Constellations

Low in the west we have our last look at Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Its constellation of Canis Major (the great dog) will soon disappear from our sky for the winter.

Above and to the south of Sirius is the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus in Carina (the keel). Looking further south and low to the horizon you may be able to identify the bright star Achernar in Eridanus (the river) at its lowest point in the sky. Directly above Achernar, the Southern Cross reaches its highest point and remains there majestically during the winter months.

Looking eastward, the bright red star Antares, in the constellation of Scorpius (the scorpion), can be seen. Below it lies the teapot shape of Sagittarius (the archer). The region around Sagittarius is a rich area of the sky to explore with binoculars. It points towards the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, which lies 26 000 light years away and contains a supermassive black hole.

International Space Station

From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

6:17am – 6:23am, Tuesday 10th June.

The Station will first appear in the north-west and travel above Venus before disappearing in the south-east.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On This Day

1st 2002, the Czech Republic becomes the first country to ban light pollution.

1st 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander was the first spacecraft to scoop Martian soil.

6th 1971, Soyuz 11 (USSR) was launched. It carried the first people to a space station (Soviet Salyut 1).

10th 2003, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (USA) was launched.

11th 1985, a balloon (from Vega 1, USSR) is used to explore another planet, Venus.

13th 2010, the Hayabusa (Japan) spacecraft returned the first asteroid samples to Earth.

14th 1965, Mariner 4 (USA) returns the first close-up images of Mars.

15th 1999, a near-miss for the International Space Station as space debris passes just 7 km from the station.

16th 1963, Valentina V. Tereshkova (USSR) launched on Vostok 6 becomes the first woman in space.

18th 1983, Sally Ride is the first US woman in space (on the space shuttle Challenger).

20th 1939, Germany launches the first liquid-fuel rocket plane.

21st 2004, SpacceShipOne (USA) launched to become the first privately-funded human space flight.

22nd 1978, Dr James W. Christy (USA) discovers Pluto’s satellite Charon.

30th 1971, the Soyuz 11 (USSR) three-man crew die upon re-entry to Earth.

30th 1908, a meteor explodes over Tunguska, Russia, destroying 2,200 km² of forest

Subscribe to Skynotes

If you'd like Skynotes emailed to you each month, email us with your address. Or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.